Paris Tips: My Bucket List Recommendations

O Captain! my Captain! Pont Alexandre III Photos by Theadora Brack

Magical Shakespeare & Co.

Text and photos by Theadora Brack

Rumor has it you’re planning a trip to Paris! So bless your soul and grab my hand. I have a few recommendations for a dreamy Parisian bucket list, big or tall. Here is where I find my inspiration!

1. Book it!

While slipping down the cobblestones, why not pick up a Paris-related book or novella? Check out Shakespeare & Co. at 37 rue Bûcherie (Metro: Saint-Michel). Located in a former 16th-century monastery near Notre Dame, it is the most enchanting bookshop in the city. Plus, the cozy 5ème CRU wine bar is located just around the corner at 7 rue du Cardinal Lemoine.

Try their signature charcuterie and fromage platter!

I also dig the San Francisco Bookshop at 17 Rue Monsieur le Prince (Metro: Odéon). Here is where I recently scored a well-loved copy of “A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller”). I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. It’s the ultimate starry-eyed read and worth a pickup. Here’s another sampling!

Henry wrote: “In Paris, on the asphalt, I have often walked saying: wild, wild, wild. You just say it, and walk, walk, walk. It makes everything rise, swell, burst. Then I am so happy I cannot bear it any more and I begin to sing. It is cause for bliss. You can get drunk on walking.” Heck, I’m now, now, now a believer!

2. Eat, Drink and be Merry

And speaking of Henry’s valentine, he also penned, “The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware: joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware!”

Here’s the squeal: Paris is made up of beaucoup boulangeries, poissonneries, caves, and cafés, éspiceries, fromageries, charcuteries, pâtisseries, chocolatiers, confiseries, and glaciers. Don’t walk away, Renée—splurge away! Also, ask for samples and recommendations. They know.

Old-school Suze

My gastronomical checklist

Don’t leave the city without trying a crème brûlé, a meringue, and at least one macaron, along with a baguette, a pain au chocolat, and a selection of young fromage (difficult to find outside of France). Let’s not forget the wine and the crêpes!

3. Big City, Bright Lights

I also advocate sipping a round on a café terrace. Winter, spring, summer and fall, you won’t forget it! For pumped-up kicks, give Suze a shot! A gentian-based apéritif, this old-school bar favorite is typically served on ice with equal parts water or orange juice.

Back in the day, Picasso quipped, “I put all the things I like into my pictures—too bad for the things, they just have to put up with it.” Yes, the iconic bottle played muse to Picasso back in 1912. Hands-down, his super-cube collage “Verre et bouteille de Suze” always sets my rain on fire!

4. Parks and Rec

After you’ve picked up your reads and nibbles, head to one of my favorite parks: Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, and the Jardin du Palais Royal (Metro Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre). All three parks are worth the trek!

Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

Fit for a King

I also recommend the Square du Vert-Galant (Metro: Pont Neuf, Cité). Here is where Hemingway would chill with wine, books, and sausages while watching the fishermen. “They always caught some fish,” he wrote, “They were plump and sweet-fleshed with a finer flavor than fresh sardines even, and were not at all oily, and we ate them bones and all.”

Flashback: For the love of vitality, admiration, and gossip, Parisians gave the little tear-drop-shaped park the flamboyant King Henri IV’s nickname, “Vert-Galant,” or “Gay Blade,” since he was larger than life, compassionate, and wildly loved.

Mad about music, women, and wine, this is where the dashing royal horsed around with his friends, entertainers, and favorite mistress, Gabrielle d’Estrée. As he liked to say, “Great cooking and great wines make a paradise on earth!” Oh, la la.

Last stop

Cemeteries are also perfect spots for a little peace, love and understanding. I often curl up with Oscar Wilde at the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Like a new pair of cat eyeglasses, the calm terrain not only changes perception, but also attitude. The surrounding beauty both soothes and re-energizes my spirits every time.

Here you’ll also find comfort with Chopin, Modigliani, Proust, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison. It’s free, and the perfect Paris experience, rain or shine. Come with a journal or sketchbook in hand. In the words of the Wilde, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” By the way, he also said, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” Just praying.

It’s Twilight Time

5. Taxi!

After nightfall, treat yourself to a cab ride in the City of Light. This is when the city truly twinkles. If you’re not already a wee intoxicated, you soon will be. I guarantee it.

Tip: To catch a ride, keep your eyes peeled for a cabstand. You could also hoof around the city after sundown. In Paris I always feel safe as houses, even when I roll solo.

6. Eiffel Tower

Add it to your list. Just do it. I also recommend buying an Eiffel Tower keychain at one of the souvenir shops in Montmartre. For the true love of corn, you’ll thank me one day in the near future. I have no doubts and no shortage of miniature replicas in my very own big box of life’s mementos!

7. Up on the roof

Everyone in Paris has a favorite nook of paradise. Where do I go for a little escapism?  I make my way downtown to the Galeries Lafayette Grand Magasin’s rooftop, where the lights are much brighter and the view is always free.

Up here, you’ll spy the Opéra Garnier, the Tour Eiffel, and Sacré Coeur. It’s another perfect spot to recharge your spirit and soles with sunsets and to-the-horizon boulevards and buildings of Haussmannian architecture.

8. Quill Power

Go vintage! Buy your postcards at the flea market! In the world of texts and emoticons, a little handwriting will feel good to the hand, spirit, cat sitter or paramour! Start the search for “cartes postale ancienne” at either the Porte de Vanves Flea Market or Clignancourt Flea Market at Caveyron Devey, located at stall number 7 and 8 in the Passage Lecuyer (off Rue Jules Vallès).

Bon Voyage! Carpe diem!

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53 thoughts on “Paris Tips: My Bucket List Recommendations

  1. Awesome post… I’m taking lots of notes. Definitely gonna look out for the CRU wine bar and those postcards when I get to marché de la Porte de Vanves. Love this post, Theadora!

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    • Thanks, V.! Yes! The CRU wine bar is the perfect last stop after visiting Notre Dame and Shakespeare & Co. From top to bottom, the walls are stocked with beaucoup bottles of affordable wine. The mind reels. It’s definitely a Shop! Pray! Eat (and Sip)! sort of adventure. Enjoy the weekend! T.

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  2. Captain O my captain. Rise up for you the flag if flung and the trip courtesy the bold Theadora has begun. But O heart! heart! heart! Paris awaits. Step lightly in the footsteps of the marvelous Theadora. Triumphantly Paris is yours. Virginia (With apologies to W. Whitman)

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  3. Fantastic Theadora! I have 4 friends all independently going to Paris over the next couple of months so have forwarded on your list! Much nicer than just doing the guide-book regular must see & do. Thanks for sharing! ~ anna

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    • Dear Anna! Thank you for spreading the word about Paris and the little PPB! site. I really, really appreciate it!! If your friends need additional SOS assistance, just drop me a line. I’d love to help! Theadora

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  4. Wonderful Theadora! Got more than a few of those on our list for August! Is the rooftop of Galleries Lafayette a cafe? Or just a wonder ful place to sight see? 🙂

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    • Yes, Shira! Do add Galeries Lafayette to your list. It’s a wonderful place to window-shop. While there, check out its stained glass “coupole” (domed ceiling). Installed in 1912, this Belle Epoch beauty with its Byzantine twist has never failed to make me cry. Also, GL’s kitchenware department is also worth a visit! T.

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  5. Lovely suggestions and great photographs. ext time we’re in Paris we’ll take in the bits we’ve missed. The Wilde diary quote is one of our favourites!

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  6. I loved that you mentioned the Square du Vert-Galant. With its little point aiming downriver, it always reminds me of sitting on the stern of a ship–a really romantic spot! It will always seem like the perfect place to propose to someone you really, really love. In a place like that, how could they ever possibly refuse??

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    • Merci!! Say, I recall reading your field reports from Paris. They were pretty darn fabulous!! Any recommendations? Did I miss any of your favorite hotspots? T.

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      • Wow, thanks for remembering. I’m not sure I have many good recommendations, since most of what we did was very personal (revisiting parts of John’s life, from when he lived there in the 90s) and probably not that interesting to the average traveler, or very touristy and cliche. I did love the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower (and our entire trip, really) but those aren’t unique and unusual activities. 🙂

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  7. Oh…. That bridge is a classic!
    It reminded me of Sex and the City too. 😉
    Did you leave a kiss on Oscar Wilde’s gravestone?
    I saw an article about a new monument created for him from BBC a while ago.

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    • Yes, Wilde’s grave at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise has been temporarily indisposed. It was recently given a scrubbing because through the years, incurable romantics have gone wild romancing the stone with lipstick prints, and their chemicals have started to take a toll. Oh, la la! T.

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  8. I’m a huge fan of photographing cemeteries, especially Père-Lachaise! It’s nice how the subjects stay still as long as you want. lol

    The only addition I’d make to your awesome list is the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. It’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon, even if it’s a little off the beaten path. I’ve always been partial to it, especially as it’s in my neighborhood!

    Thanks for the beautiful post, Theadora!

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    • Merci, Paris Paul!! Thanks also for the big giggle! I dig your Parc des Buttes-Chaumont recommendation. It’s always been one of my favorite parks in the city. It’s the perfect spot for picnics, reading, writing, along with napping and people-watching. It’s a popular spot for wedding portraits. Have you noticed? Also, from time to time, affordable vide-greniers pop up there. I’ve scored great vintage fashion treasures here! T. (Paul, let us know when you feature a photograph of the park on your “Paris by Cell Phone” site.)

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  9. Thanks for the recommendation about A Literate Passion. I’m off to find myself a copy. That quote ‘wild,wild,wild’ etc has hooked me already!

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    • Thank you!! I’m working on a second Bucket List. It’s hard to stop. Not that I’m trying!! Theadora (Do you have any Paris Bucket list recommendations? Do spill!!)

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      • Wish I had the experience there to make a bucket list – we spent about 4 days there last year and it was wonderful. So much to see but so little time – definitely makes for a visit back. I want to see more of the Lourve, Musee de Orsay and the Sainte-Chapelle which was closed while we were there for some reason. Really any reason to go back would be great.

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    • Merci!! Apologies for my delay. I’ve been working on the road. Thank you for your thoughtful words. I’ve really been enjoying your photography. I fell madly for the recent “Freaky Santa.” What a guy. What an expression. Enjoy the week!! Theadora (And Bon Anniversaire to your wife!)

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  10. Great post! We’re just back from Paris and glad to say we did follow some of your recommendations. I’ll save the rest for our next trip. thanks for the post…

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    • Bonjour, Rhonda!! Thank you for your sweet “thank you” note!! How was your trip? Do you have any cool tips? A favorite café or museum exhibition? Or hotel? Do spill!! Theadora

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  11. I would have liked to see you add Jardin des Plantes to the list 🙂

    Ps When I first moved to Paris I worked part time at Shakespeare & co… those were the times 😉

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  12. Theadora, I have yearned (and I mean that in the most dramatic literary sense) to return to Paris. This post has me tingling to purchase tickets. Alas, it’s not to be this year. Perhaps next. I will let you know when the date is set. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this city!

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